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Now Playing on GridTV

Selina Sandoval

We spend a lot of time on here focusing on what good grid will do for you – save time, save money, drive better decisions, and make you look like a rock star. But back in the office, we’re really a bunch of data nerds who get an inordinate amount of enjoyment from digging into historical records and finding weird little anomalies, tracking down backstories, and knitting together an elegant web from all these pieces.

We have some amazing in-house experts overseeing the data you use. If you’re interested in learning more about how this all comes together, we invite you to grab a bowl of popcorn, sit back, and enjoy this double feature – and stay a few minutes extra to get some insight into what to look for in a data contract. 

How It’s Made: The History Behind Lots, Tracts and Quarter-Quarters
Jessica Schiewe, QA/QC Manager: A Girl, Some Grid, and the Fine Print

In-house expert Jessica walks us through how her team interprets historical documents and reconciles them with current records to produce the best data.

(Re)Solved Mysteries: Deciphering Texas
Jeff Smith, GeoData Admin Lead: Texas Land Survey

Railways, shifting borders, and a history of occupations – the Texas land survey has it all. WhiteStar expert Jeff gets to the bottom of it to analyze what it looks like today. 

Bonus Feature: The Data’s Advocate
Peter Edwards, Director, Fairfield and Woods, PC
Data Contracts – What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

WhiteStar Counsel Peter Edwards talks what to look for before signing a data contract.

Twenty Years an Esri Partner

Selina Sandoval

WhiteStar recently marked twenty years as an Esri Business Partner. We had the opportunity to have breakfast and chat with Jack Dangermond, the billionaire, philanthropist CEO and owner of Esri at the recent Business Partner Conference.  Dangermond has strongly supported his business partners - Esri provides the software tools and we provide the domain expertise and customization to make both of us successful. 

This anniversary represents a tremendous milestone for WhiteStar and our customers as Esri offers us a common set of tools.  As an Esri partner, we have access to all of the latest and greatest innovations and can develop software and data to meet customer needs.   Esri notably invests hundreds of millions of dollars every year evolving its flagship ArcGIS line of products - from the desktop to the enterprise to the Internet. 
Dangermond often emphasizes the need to be a “node in your network.”  I credit much of WhiteStar’s success to that idea, that we are all interconnected and can meet and serve each other’s needs if we only reach out to one another.  Having a common software platform helps enormously. 

Partnering with Esri enables WhiteStar to develop a rich and full featured set of curated data libraries for use by our customers.   We use Esri tools in-house to build data to the highest possible quality standards and with full topology.  Esri’s vast installed base then allows us to seamlessly market our data to thousands of customers around the USA and Canada.  

The tight integration between our data and their software provides an excellent user experience for our customers who in turn can then add their own data layers, integrations, and applications. 

In those early, heady days of GIS, the Esri User Conference was an energetic event held at a central hotel in Palm Springs. The group then numbered several hundred enthusiastic power users. Twenty years of interaction with those GIS leaders has driven an incredible amount of worldwide change, and today that group fills the entire San Diego Convention Center and numbers more than 15,000 attendees. It’s an extraordinary testament to the power and longevity of GIS.

WhiteStar VP of Sales, Adam Cordova, Esri CEO, Jack Dangermond, Whitestar CEO, Robert C. White Jr.

WhiteStar VP of Sales, Adam Cordova, Esri CEO, Jack Dangermond, Whitestar CEO, Robert C. White Jr.

Building a Business Case for GIS Data

Selina Sandoval

Every year WhiteStar hosts one-hour breakfast sessions in six cities in Colorado, Texas, and Oklahoma. This year’s theme was, “Building a Business Case for GIS Data Investments.”  

Commonly, customers must show the financial impacts of a contemplated asset purchase to upper management, taking ROI and Internal Rates of Return into consideration as well as other specific business benefits.

Customers customarily evaluate the total cost of software and business services, but seldom give any thought to evaluating data in the same way. These costs can easily amount to several hundred thousand dollars per year for a relatively small area and ultimately represents 80% or more of the cost of your GIS implementation. Why have data expenses been ignored? 

It’s likely that a land software vendor is your first point of contact deploying GIS in your organization.  Since they want all of your budget, they often obscure or minimize the cost of data. It’s a bit of a shell game, they hope you won’t notice, and further hope you can build your critical projects with some scrapings from the Internet.  We think customers will come to distrust vendors in the long term as they purposefully concealed a major cost center.

We find it best to address all costs and processes in an upfront manner. WhiteStar provides a variety of tools to help you do this on the data side, particularly if you are contemplating downloading and maintaining “free” data. The costs for even a state area can exceed several hundred thousand dollars per year in an organization not geared towards creating and maintaining GIS efforts.  

If you are purchasing competitive data from another vendor, then it makes sense to truly compare quality and not just prices as is the naive approach.  We would say that more than 25% of the time, customers expend large amounts of time and resources before returning to WhiteStar to obtain curated, updated, accurate, and maintained data staffed by knowledgeable professionals who are willing to answer the phone and research your questions.

Our website has a variety of spreadsheets to help you build business cases for data such as ROI - Return on Investment.  The WhiteStar Grid Spreadsheet  example is a project spreadsheet showing the costs for building high quality data from raw BLM data. (Some software vendors will suggest you use the raw BLM data for projects, but we strongly suggest otherwise.) You will want to plug in your own numbers, to show your own internal scenarios which are available from in-house cost accountants or your own experience.  

We suggest using these tools to build a solid case for investing in data licenses with a schedule for establishing a projected Internal Rate of Return for presentation to management of an overall business case.